In the age of declining social capital, the pool hall is an endangered species. Anti-smoking legislation, smartphones, and the makers of Nintendo Wii have all conspired to wreak havoc on the beer-stained gambling dens of yore. But for those of us who still prefer the analog experience and happen to live in the Valley, there is hope. What follows is not only a list of the best dedicated billiards venues, but one or two of our favorite bars where the pool tables are a truly integral part of the landscape.
Breakroom Bar & Grill
4729 East McDowell Road
Maybe it's the neon signs advertising Jell-O shots and cheap pitchers, but something about the Breakroom seems to whisper mischievously, “Hey buddy, let's have a drink.” Truly, was ever a more perfect union conceived than that of billiards and alcohol? The Breakroom has four quarter tables that cost 50 cents per game. The full menu includes cheeky nods to the game like Bank Shot Appetizers, Run the Table Wings, and Scratch Handmade Burgers.
Hambone Sports Bar
903 East Main Street, Mesa
Set along Mesa’s Main Street, you’ll recognize Hambone Sports Bar from the iconic dapper-pig-holding-a beer neon sign. This place has six pool tables and plenty of room to shoot, and the atmosphere can’t be beat. That atmosphere, however, may be a little hazy, as patrons here are allowed to smoke since the Hambone doesn’t technically have any windows. Though you can’t smoke while shooting (for the felt’s sake), you can puff away as you wait your turn. There's also a full bar, karaoke, and internet jukebox to boot.
515 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
If you're scared of clowns, do yourself a favor and don’t look above the bar. Jester’s attracts guests of all ages and has served as the backdrop for many a Gilbert or Mesa resident's misspent youth. But once one comes of age, Jester’s Billiards truly shines. With 20 taps and more than 100 bottles in the fridge, Jester’s has a craft beer selection to rival many destination beer bars in the Valley. Quarter tables are 50 cents a game, and there are variable hourly and unlimited rates on 9-foot tables depending on party size.
Kolby’s Corner Pocket Billiards
1301 East University Drive #112, Tempe
Kolby's Corner is usually packed, and as a two-time winner of New Times' "Best Pool Hall" award, it is only fitting. There's a full kitchen, along with the latest craft brews on tap from Arizona and beyond. Small tables are $3 per hour for one player, and $6 per hour for two or more players. Big tables are $4.25 per hour for one player, $8.50 per hour for two, and $10 for three or more.
1807 East Baseline Road #101, Tempe
Despite its name, Lucky Break (formerly Scully’s) is not a pool hall. Rather, it's a sports bar with pool tables. But to qualify that caveat, they are solid slate, well-maintained pool tables adorned with red felt. In fact, everything in Lucky Break is pretty nice — perhaps nicer than your traditional pool hall-goers may expect. If you can successfully orient yourself to the luxurious surroundings, come to watch the game, grab a beer from 23 rotating taps, as well as engage in your favorite game of skill. There are only quarter tables, and it's $1 per game, though pool is free Sunday through Tuesday.
Main Street Billiards
1749 West Main Street, Mesa
Main Street Billiards in Mesa has something of a community feel, much like the skating rink or bowling alley of your childhood. Ample amenities and predictably well-kept tables, but cue rental is extra. With its fenced off "players area," the 40 pool tables (16 coin-operated and 24 nine-foot tables) clearly takes center stage here. Quarter tables are $1 a game, and full-size tables are rentable by the hour. Cue rental costs $1, or you can bring your own.
Mill Cue Club
607 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
There was no way that Mill Cue Club was not going to make the cut. The demographics are predictably younger than some of the other pool spots, but that’s okay. Mill Cue is also distinct in that it presents more opportunities for people watching outside the venue than from within. While it has no shortage of amenities, as far as pool halls go this is one is perhaps more for the casual player rather than the dedicated enthusiast. Simply put, you will wind up here at some point. Pool is by the hour here, with rates ranging from $5 to $12 an hour.
Q & Brew
3400 South Mill Avenue #348, Tempe
If the pool hall as we once knew it is considered by many to be all but extinct, then one might liken Q & Brew to Jurassic Park. There are quarter/bar tables, as well as larger tables for the skilled and/or shameless. There is beer and liquor, potato chips, and peanuts. There are retirees who bring their own cues and hang out here all day. That’s it. Quarter tables are 50 cents, while full-size tables are $3 for unlimited play.
Skip & Jan's Sports Bar
1520 Warner Road #112, Gilbert
Relocated and reopened in Gilbert from the original spot in Tempe, Skip & Jan's Sports Bar features 24, seven- and 9-foot recently re-felted pool tables surrounded by 20 thundering flat-screen TVs. Play is by the hour, and rates are divided between before 5 p.m. and after. They also have specials like one free hour of pool with the purchase of lunch, or a $50 pool pass good for 30 days and all you can play.
Stinger's Sports Bar & Grill
10040 North 43rd Avenue, Glendale
This place is way bigger on the inside than it seems. Walk in to Stinger's Sports Bar & Grill, and your eyes immediately hit the 15 pool tables, plus the bar, flat screens, and maybe the middle of a group dance lesson. Stinger’s has a vibe like a country and western Peter Piper Pizza for the 21-and-over crowd, so bring your tokens – a.k.a. quarters. Games are 75 cents a play, or you can rent tables for $5 an hour.
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Time Out Lounge
3129 South Mill Avenue, Tempe
The neighborhood attracting all walks of life, Time Out Lounge is a spacious watering hole and pool player’s bar. With three quarter tables, and four on special occasions, you can pair pool with live music, beer specials, and friendly opponents. Pool is 50 cents a game, and free on Sundays. And if you’re special (and anybody can be), they’ll keep your cue in the back for you.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in July 2015.